I thought “Utopia”, TV’s latest reality show, would be different. No prize, no winner, a time span of a year. But once again, the media knows us better than we will admit about ourselves. Reality shows have the potential of presenting a more realistic version of human nature than dramas, movies, sitcoms. Fiction versus non-fiction. Yet as every writer knows, a story must have conflict.
As a writer, a person, I learn much about human nature by watching human interaction. Beneath the manipulation for ratings of both character selection, encouragement of drama, and serious editing to skip the dull parts, there is a more troubling aspect that worries me. Understanding human nature by watching the contestants is just a small part of it. What I’m seeing more deeply with “Utopia” is a revelation of its audience. We have always sought to expand our experiences, have lived vicariously through the characters of literature, plays, movies, television, video games. But this return to reality? Just as we must look at an accident we pass safely by on the highway, we have a need to watch others at each other’s throats guessing by the producers’ choice of characters and plots.
Funny, how we claim to love everyone and insist that everyone should do the same, yet we entertain ourselves with the conflicts and drama of human nature. Funny, how we deride the bulging pockets of corporations, yet are adding to them by our dictating of what they are presenting to us, the worst sides of being human. And sad, that we choose in our own lives to hide our feelings, to avoid confrontation and honest dislikes and rage, yet insist on feeding on the emotions of others in the flickering lights of our darkened homes.